Feeds

Water, water everywhere on the Moon: But not a drop to drink

Solar wind doesn't bring on the rain

The next step in data security

Astroboffins have discovered more and more water on the once-thought barren surface of the Moon in the last five years, but the question of where that water comes from is still a mystery.

The Moon

The ice at the poles of the Moon is one sort of water long known to be present on the Earth's major satellite, but water has also shown up throughout the dust on its surface, a fine layer of powder and rocks known as the lunar regolith.

NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing satellite (LCROSS) slammed into a lunar crater in 2009, ejecting a plume of material that proved to be rich in water ice. Most boffins have reckoned that the water must end up on the Moon when water-laden comets and other sopping space debris crash into it, but a new study suggests that the H2O could be coming from the Sun.

The theory is that solar winds, full of hydrogen ions or protons, hit the Moon and combine with the oxygen on the surface to form water and also leave behind hydroxyls.

The researchers used infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry on Apollo samples and spotted significant amounts of hydroxyls.

Unfortunately, the water is no use for any manned Moon base, University of Michigan's Youxue Zhang said.

"We found that the 'water' component, the hydroxyl, in the lunar regolith is mostly from solar wind implantation of protons, which locally combined with oxygen to form hydroxyls that moved into the interior of glasses by impact melting," he said.

"Lunar regolith is everywhere on the lunar surface, and glasses make up about half of lunar regolith. So our work shows that the 'water' component, the hydroxyl, is widespread in lunar materials, although not in the form of ice or liquid water that can easily be used in a future manned lunar base."

But the findings do mean that there's probably water on celestial bodies across the solar system.

"This also means that water likely exists on Mercury and on asteroids such as Vesta or Eros further within our solar system," Tennessee University's Yang Liu said. "These planetary bodies have very different environments, but all have the potential to produce water."

The study was published in Nature Geoscience. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.